Daily Archives: April 20, 2020

Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs


My first Saturday in Hawaii was spent in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Though it was a long day of driving and walking, we still saw only a fraction of what the park offered. I took more photographs than on any other day of a vacation that was filled with beautiful views and daily wonders.

We started with a hike through a lush green landscape. Informational markers explained the history of the plants. Most were native to Hawaii; some were ornamental plants, brought in with good intentions, but now causing problems.

Next, we went through a lava tube: a tunnel – large enough to stand in – formed by an active lava flow.

From there, we went by car along the Chain of Craters Road, a 38-mile round-trip drive that descends 3,700 feet to the coast. It has several overlooks to view craters in various stages of regrowth, and areas where the rocks still steam from the hot flow below the surface. It ends where lava has covered almost 8 miles of road since 1986. We made several stops along the route, but our destination was the Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Trail.

Though the brochures said it was less than a one-mile walk to the boardwalk to view the petroglyphs, we all agreed it seemed much farther. The terrain was an uneven surface of lava rock that could not be traversed in a straight line. Every step presented elements that could turn an ankle or cause a fall; there was no shelter from the sun. We carried water, and umbrellas to offer shade. Still, it was a strenuous walk, but so worth it!

After walking along the designated area to view the petroglyphs, you become more aware of them, and notice that the landscape is filled with others. Some designs have a specific purpose. The plain round holes, called puka, are cut into the rock as a place to put the umbilical cord of a newborn. The holes are clustered in family groups. It has a spiritual significance, and is still practiced today.

Other images remind me of Native American designs, carvings on ancient cave walls, paintings in Mycenaean temples, and patterns on early Greek pottery. It reminds me that we all share the same human experience, and the images in our art reflect that. This was one of the most special parts of my trip!

We finished our day at the end of Chain of Craters Road, with a spectacular view of the sea cliffs.